LA Rams player feature: C Coleman Shelton ready for larger role?

(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
(Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images) /

The LA Rams need younger players to step up in 2020. Is UW center Coleman Shelton ready for NFL playing time?

The LA Rams have questions about the center position entering the 2020 NFL season. Starting center Brian Allen was out a major portion of the season due to an MCL injury.  His backup, center Austin Blythe, is due to test free agency in 2020.  Blythe played through several injuries last season, in both shoulders and a nagging ankle injury.  Blythe underwent surgery to clean up both shoulders, and should enter free agency with a clean bill of health.

Unless the Rams re-sign Blythe, the team will be looking towards former University of Washington center Coleman Shelton to backup, and perhaps compete with, Allen at center. But what do  we really know about Coleman Shelton? Is he ready to compete for playing time in the NFL?

The simplest answer? Yes. Of course, the Rams have several options.  There is the NFL free agency market.  And there are young players signed in 2019 as undrafted free agents who get better each season. But Coleman Shelton is a fit for what the LA Rams need at center this season. How so?

Shelton did not arrive to the Rams in typical fashion. The 6-foot-5 299 pound Husky center toured the NFC West. Initially signing on as a UDFA with the San Francisco 49ers.  He was cut in mid 2018 and signed on with the Arizona Cardinals practice squad until 2019. He signed on with the Rams 53-man roster in September 2019.

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While many may not know much about Shelton, I had the distinguished honor of covering his play at UW as he anchored their offensive line.  At the time of his entering the NFL Draft, I wrote an article projecting him on five NFL team rosters.  Prophetically, I saw a great fit for Shelton as an LA Ram. The reason?  Shelton is a huge plus for a running offense.

Shelton is a run grader. Simply put, he blocks on the offensive line, and then penetrates downfield to neutralize either a linebacker or defensive back as well. A huge weakness in the Rams offense in 2019 was the inability of the line to block for running back Todd Gurley up the middle, particularly A gap blitzes.  Shelton specialized in pickup up blitzes at UW, and should transition nicely into the same role in the NFL.

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Shelton has a very similar makeup as that of Philadelphia Eagles center Jason Kelce.  With the LA Rams running game needing some upgrades, giving Coleman Shelton an opportunity to compete for a starting role may be a very good option. He has the raw football instincts to neutralize multiple defenders on any given play.